Starting points

Led by a military brass band and with some 3,000 people trailing in his wake, Sir Ian Botham began his Big Sri Lanka Walk in a manner as conspicuous as it was colourful.

Last Updated: 01/11/13 at 13:46 Post Comment

Three kilometres from the start line in Kilinochchi, the 300 national flag bearers on parade - many of them military personnel - were already struggling to keep their ranks aligned, stretched by Botham's punchy pace.

While other walkers wilted in the intense heat reflecting off the smooth tarmac, the Sky Sports commentator - sporting customised fluorescent lime green trainers - pressed on, pausing only to have his photograph taken in front of plans for a local community project.

And a little under four hours and 29km later in Mankulam, Botham gratefully touched the finish line banner and sank into a leather armchair at the cricket ground, where scores of people were awaiting his arrival.

There, just as at the very start of the day in Kilinochchi, the opening rounds of the Murali Harmony Cup - a five-day school cricket competition - were about to commence.

Earlier in the morning Botham had officially opened the tournament alongside Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene after receiving a cricket-bat guard of honour by players from four of the 20 teams competing - Trinity College, Kilinochchi Schools, Seenigama and Trinco-Batti Schools.

Fittingly, the first match on the new cricket pitch saw Kilinochchi take on Seenigama, areas where the Foundation for Goodness has set up projects to rebuild regions blighted by civil war and the 2004 Tsunami Disaster respectively.

Integrate

After the toss Jayawardene explained why he has spent the last five weeks training to take part in the first leg of the trek.

"I think this is great for Sri Lanka, especially up in the north," he said. "We are a health conscious country so something like this gives a good message, plus it contributes a lot to the community as well - so that's the whole idea.

"This part of the country was torn by 30 years of war; we've been playing cricket picking up talent wherever possible and now we've got a bigger pond to fish from and that's what we're trying to do, to integrate through cricket and give these players an opportunity so that hopefully five to 10 years down the line one of the guys will try and represent Sri Lanka.

"That would be fantastic; it is a great, great thing that sport can unite people and something like this - Sir Ian coming up and doing this walk - you can see the crowds turning up. It's a great boost."

This, though - as Botham is only too well aware - is just the start, both of an arduous eight days and the Foundation's longer-term vision of rebuilding shattered communities across the country.

Looking forward to plunging his feet into some ice-cold water, Botham said: "It's been a great start - come on the rest of Sri Lanka, match it!"

To donate to the cause visit www.justgiving.com/BeefysSriLankaWalk or for more information visit www.beefysbigsrilankawalk.com

Check out a gallery of Beefy's walks here.

Check out Beefy's itinerary here.

You can follow Botham's progress on Sky Sports News, online with skysports.com and on your Ipad. To donate to Beefy's fund-raising effort simply visit www.justgiving.com/BeefysSriLankaWalk

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

think Finnegans Wake would have been a better reference point than Ulysses. Far more rambling and incomprehensible.

debra2927
Football People On TV: Garth Crooks

I

f I recall correctly, Degsy predicted a 100/1 shot correctly the week after his 150/1 Blackpool 4 - 3 Bolton call. I stuck a fiver on it as an idle bet. Paid for a stag do in Munich. Heady days...

baldini
Backing Hull To Beat United 2-1...

R

odgers prefers Joe Allen to Lucas? If this is true then I'm setting aside a fortnight to finally learn the rules of American Football and I'll give up on real football.

godzilla
The Jammy Gossip

Footer 365

Gary Neville: Liverpool are in danger of becoming a provincial club

Liverpool are stuck in the mud and in danger of becoming a provincial club, according to Gary Neville.

Emmanuel Adebayor's Tottenham future to be talked over after season

Mauricio Pochettino says no decision has yet been made over striker Emmanuel Adebayor's future at White Hart Lane.

Mauricio Pochettino keen Harry Kane has rest before next season

Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful Harry Kane will not be overworked this summer and affect his plans for the early part of next season.

Mail Box

Only One Real Manager Of The Year

Winning the Premier League with the best squad in the Premier League is only par; Ronald Koeman did a whole lot better. Plus, the last word on Raheem and...

Don't Slate Sterling For Ambition...

Raheem Sterling deserves credit for his desire to quit Liverpool, according to one mailboxer. Also: why football should not be compared to business and Degsy's latest spot of bother...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company